books

The Trouble They’ve Seen

The arc of two new memoirs moves from heartbreak to a hard-won affirmation of life.

04/18/2011
Jewish Week Book Critic

Bad things happen to a lot of people. Some very good books have resulted.

“Life can survive in the constant shadow of illness,” Diane Ackerman writes in “One Hundred Names for Love.” Toshi Otsuki

Dr. Evil, The Sex Doctor, and Lost Science of Judaism!

In case you missed it, The New York Times had a nice piece yesterday on the discovery of 1,000 books for a long forgotten academic subfield: the "Science of Judaism."  Now dormant, the Science of Judaism was an attempt by German scholars to study Judaism as a kind of lost ancient culture--how scholars today might study, for instance, Greco-Roman culture, or Egyptology.

From My Book Shelf To Yours

One of the perks of my job is receiving new books from publishers all over the world. Some of these books are wonderful; some (often self-published) are so bad they make me sad for the trees that gave their limbs to gratify the authors.

Here is a sampling of three very different books of note I’ve received lately and recommend (in no particular order):

Bread Alone is Not Enough

Efforts to get Jewish books to Holocaust survivors in Europe

02/22/2011

In the spring of 1946, Zalman Grinberg and Josef Rosenzaft, representatives of Jewish Holocaust survivors and Displaced Persons (DPs) in the American and British zones of post-World War II Europe, respectively, visited the United States. “Bread alone is not enough,” they poignantly pleaded to American Jews, “Send us poets, writers and singers to show us that Jewish life is not dead.”

Presentation of donation of books to JDC from the National Women’s League of the United Synagogue of America, c. 1945.

The Road Back To Haiti

New story in 'Haiti Noir' collection brings Mark Kurlansky back to the island nation.

01/19/2011
Staff Writer

Nearly all of the 18 short stories in the new "Haiti Noir" collection are written by Haitians. The book's editor, the prominent Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat, made an exception, however, for Mark Kurlansky.

A 62-year-old Jewish writer who lives in New York City, Kurlansky is well known for his best-selling histories of food - on salt, on cod, on oysters. But writers that know him well, like Danticat, are well aware of his longtime involvement with Haiti.

Mark Kurlansky

Gaza Doctor Sues; Friends Surprised

01/04/2011

One of the best-known tragedies of the Gaza conflict two years ago was the mistaken Israeli shelling of an apartment that killed the three daughters and a niece of Palestinian gynecologist Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish.

What made the tragedy all the more painful was that Abuelaish called a television reporter friend who was on the air when the shells struck and screamed into the phone, “My girls, oh God, they’ve killed my girls.” The reporter put his cell phone next to the microphone so the audience could hear Abuelaish’s anguished cries.

Montaigne’s Jewish Question

How much did the French philosopher know about his Jewish roots?

12/07/2010
Staff Writer

It should be no surprise that author Sarah Bakewell found in the 16th-century French writer Michel de Montaigne a voice that is entirely of the present.

“I’m flummoxed as to what to make of this whole story,” says author Sarah Bakewell, referring to Montaigne’s elusive Jewish back

Guilt On Trial

Elie Wiesel’s new novel explores themes of memory, justice and journalistic ethics.

Jewish Week Book Critic
11/16/2010

When Werner Sonderberg replies “Guilty … and not guilty,” after being asked to enter his plea in a New York courtroom, the judge and spectators are stunned. Sonderberg, a young German expatriate who is accused of murder, seems to want to explain something to the court, but he is silenced.

A complex murder trial forms the underpinning of Wiesel’s new novel.

Mr. Bellow’s Planet

11/16/2010
Staff Writer

Fittingly, the story of how novelist Benjamin Taylor became the editor of the newly published collection of Saul Bellow’s letters begins with a letter. Not a letter between Bellow and Taylor, to be sure — they never knew each other, in fact — but a letter between Taylor and Philip Roth.

The novelist’s letters — 708 of them — reveal his complicated relationship with Jewish life.

Object Lesson

In ‘Great House,’ Nicole Krauss explores the connections between memory and weighty things.

10/26/2010
Jewish Week Book Critic

A Hungarian-born antiques dealer with a fine eye for furniture helps people find pieces of their past — perhaps a chest from a living room broken up by the Nazis or a porcelain mantel clock. In his own stone house in Jerusalem,

Nicole Krauss says her plots are influenced by what's on her mind — the burden of inheritance. Joyce Ravid
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